How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Stargazer Lilies

Curious about stargazer lilies but slightly overwhelmed? Hoping to work some into your yard this year, but not sure if you have the right conditions? In this comprehensive guide, certified master gardener Liz Jaros breaks down this much-sought-after lily cultivar and gives you the know-how you need to grow stargazer lilies like a pro.

Close-up of blooming Stargazer lilies in a garden, against a blurred green background. It features large, upward-facing blooms with recurved petals that display a rich, deep pink or crimson hue, adorned with prominent dark spots and a contrasting white edge.

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Whether tucked into a vase on your counter or clustered in a corner of your yard, stargazer lilies (Lilium orientalis ‘Stargazer’) are not to be overlooked. Featuring a strong, spicy scent and lightly freckled, up-facing blooms, this show-stopping lily from the Oriental group plays a starring role wherever it’s planted. 

Disease-resistant, sturdy, and long-blooming stargazer lilies are easy to grow if you meet their basic needs. If you’d like to know more about them and possibly grow some in your landscape, read on for a comprehensive look at this cultivar’s history, preferences, and maintenance requirements

Lilium Stargazer Overview

Close-up of a Lilium Stargazer flower against a blurred background. The flower is large, upward-facing, characterized by vibrant deep pink to red hues and distinctive white edges. Its petals showcase prominent dark pink spots. Long stamens with copper anthers protrude from the center of the flower.
Plant Type Perennial, bulb
Family  Liliaceae
Genus Lilium
Species Oriental group
Native Area Japan
Exposure Full sun
Height 3-4 feet
Watering Requirements Even, regular
Pests & Diseases Powdery mildew, botrytis, gray mold, aphids, lily leaf beetles
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Well drained, pH 6.3-6.8
Hardiness Zone 4-9

Characteristics

Close-up of a Lilium Stargazer flower against a background of green foliage. The Lilium Stargazer is a visually captivating oriental lily cultivar with large, upward-facing blooms and strappy, dark green leaves. The bloom features a primarily crimson hue, adorned with white trimming and speckled with red.
Hardy in zones 4-9, these Oriental hybrids have reflexive habits, yielding 4-12 blooms per plant on multi-branched stems.

Primarily crimson but trimmed with light pink and speckled with red, this cultivar is often called the ‘Pink Stargazer.’ Although that’s not technically its cultivar name, the nickname helps distinguish it from two other hybrid lilies, the ‘White Stargazer’ and the ‘Golden Stargazer.’ 

Hardy in zones 4 through 9, stargazer lilies are Oriental hybrids from the Lilium genus in the Liliaceae family. Reflexive in habit, stargazer lilies arch backward to reveal deep yellow throats and extra-long stamen tipped with orange. They grow on multi-branched stems and reach heights of up to 4 feet, offering between 4 and 12 blooms per plant. 

Stargazers open sequentially over two to three weeks in mid-summer and are highly attractive to pollinators. Leaves are strappy and dark green, radiating in a whorled pattern from central branches. Stems hold up well in water, and flowers have a strong scent, which makes stargazers a popular cutting garden plant.

History & Cultivation

Close-up of many blooming Stargazer lilies in a sunny garden. The plant features large, upward-facing blooms with recurved petals, primarily in a deep pink or crimson hue, adorned with dark spots and a contrasting white edge. The plant produces a whorl of dark green, strappy leaves that radiate from the central branches.
Stargazer lilies symbolize rebirth and have gained global popularity for their vibrant, upward-facing blooms.

Symbolizing purity and rebirth, lily flowers can be found in drawings that date back to ancient Egypt. Stargazer lilies, however, have a much shorter history. They were cultivated in the 1970s by botanist Leslie Woodruff, who had been experimenting with the strongest, most attractive lily species growing wild in Japan.

Woodruff was drawn to the strong character of several lilies from this region, officially recognized as the Oriental group by the North American Lily Society. The most desirable attributes were lily flowers that faced upward rather than downward, so he crossed the best and brightest to create the ‘Stargazer.’ 

Rising quickly in popularity in the decades since then, ‘Stargazer’ is now among the world’s most beloved and sought-after lily cultivars. It’s seen as a rejection of the pure white sympathy lily and plays a more colorful, optimistic role in the world of floral design.

Planting

Close-up of a gardener's hand in a black and red glove holding a Lilium Stargazer bulb over a hole in the soil before planting. The Lilium Stargazer bulb is a compact and bulbous structure consisting of different sized lobules tightly packed into a rounded shape with long white roots growing from the bottom and embryonic shoot from above.
Plant in fall or spring, ensuring proper soil preparation and sunlight balance.

Stargazer lilies can be purchased (or acquired) in bulb form or as an established plant. Since this cultivar is a hybrid and will contain DNA from both parents, seeds will not produce a ‘true to type’ stargazer lily, and planting from seed is not recommended. 

The best time to plant lilies is in fall, at least six weeks before your region usually gets its first frost. This allows roots to establish and store energy before plants enter dormancy. If fall’s not an option, spring is fine as long as ground temperatures have reached at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit and all danger of frost has passed. 

Before planting, turn the soil over to a depth of about 12 inches from the surface and work some organic matter into the bed. Lilies like to have their heads in the sun and their feet in the shade, so keep that in mind when planting them near other perennials or choosing companions. Here are the planting instructions for both bare bulb and established stargazers:

Bare Bulb

Close-up of four Lilium Stargazer bulbs on the soil. The bulb is characterized by its purple-brown exterior. It is a bulbous structure with uneven clove formations tightly attached to each other. Long roots grow from below, and young shoots grow from above.
Choose firm, disease-free stargazer bulbs, plant 6 inches deep, space them 8-10 inches apart, and water them consistently.

Always purchase bulbs from a reputable grower and check to ensure they are firm and disease-free before planting. Dig a hole roughly three times as deep as the bulb’s height using a hand trowel or a bulb planter. Stargazer bulbs are usually about two inches tall, so plan on digging down about six inches.

Lilies do not like to be crowded and will be healthiest when properly spaced. Dig holes between eight and ten inches apart to allow foliage and flowers some room to breathe.

Place bulbs in the holes with pointed ends up (shoots) and flat, hairy ends down (roots). Backfill loosely with soil and keep evenly moist during the growing season. 

Established Plants

Close-up of Lilium sprouts growing in the ground in a garden. Lilium sprouts present slender, green shoots that push through the soil. These early growths, characterized by a pointed tip, unfurl to reveal the distinctive shape of lily leaves. The leaves are strappy, green in color with thin parallel dark green veins.
Plant stargazers with foliage anytime, following standard hole depth and spacing steps.

Stargazers with foliage and maybe even flowers can be planted anytime throughout the season as long as you are prepared to meet their watering needs. Whether you’re planting a recently divided lily (see Propagation below) or one you’ve purchased from your local garden center, the planting steps will be the same.

Dig a hole twice as wide and an inch or two shorter than the plant’s root mass. Remove your lily from its container (if applicable) and set the plant in the hole. Adjust the soil height below the roots so that the plant’s crown sits an inch or two above the soil’s surface. 

Backfill with soil and mound dirt up slightly so water will drain away from its crown. When planting more than one established stargazer, space them 10 to 12 inches from their centers to allow for generous airflow.

How to Grow

When properly planted, stargazer lilies are fairly easy to grow. Give them good soil and the proper sun and water; they should thrive without much fuss. Here’s a detailed look at this cultivar’s specific preferences for light, water, soil, and fertilizer:

Light

A single pink and white stargazer lily bloom has long anthers and red dots on petal interiors
Plant stargazers in full sun (at least 6 hours per day) or partial shade.

Stargazer lilies grow best in full sun, at least six hours of direct light daily. The total hours do not need to be sequential, but they should add up to six. Ideally, rays should be concentrated in the morning, especially in warmer regions where the afternoons are often oppressive. 

Stargazers can also be planted in partial shade, a location with more than four but less than six direct hours of sun. Lilies in partial shade will survive but might not flower as prolifically as those planted in full sun and may have leggier, weaker stems that require staking. They might also be more susceptible to fungal conditions and diseases. 

Water

Close-up of a blooming Stargazer lily with water droplets against a backdrop of dark green strap-like foliage. The plant boasts large, upward-facing bloom with recurved petals, showing a crimson hue adorned with dark spots and a contrasting white edge. The edges of the petals are slightly wavy. Pale green stamens with copper anthers protrude from the center of the flower.
Keep stargazers consistently moist, allowing the top inch to dry between waterings.

Stargazers should be kept evenly moist throughout the growing season. Allow the top inch or so of soil to dry out between waterings, and shoot for about one inch of irrigation per week.

A rain gauge or moisture meter can be inserted into the soil for the most accurate assessment, but a simple finger poke usually tells you whether they need a drink. 

Stargazers should never be oversaturated with water or planted in a low area that will puddle. Too much water makes their bulbs vulnerable to root rot and other diseases. Use a soaker hose once or twice a week (in normal weather conditions), which should be adequate. Stop watering in late fall when the ground freezes and begin again when the ground thaws in spring. 

Soil

Close-up of a woman's hand planting a lily bulb into the soil in the garden. The bulb has a round shape, purple-brown color, and long beige roots growing from below. The gardener's hand is wearing a gray glove stained with soil.
Stargazers thrive in well-draining soil, preferring pH 6.3-6.8.

Stargazer lilies will grow in dense and loose soil as long as there is adequate drainage. They prefer soil with a neutral to slightly acidic pH value, ideally somewhere between 6.3 and 6.8, but they are not overly particular. 

Organic amendments like compost, peat moss, humus, and leaf mulch can help improve drainage where soil is compact or clay-like. Use a potting medium for planting stargazers in containers, and make sure drainage holes are clear and fast-flowing. 

Fertilizing

Close-up of blooming Stargazer lilies against a blurred background of dark green strap-like foliage. The Lilium Stargazer is renowned for its captivating appearance, featuring large, upward-facing blooms with vivid crimson hues, adorned with tiny dark spots and a white edge.
Fertilize stargazers in spring with balanced NPK fertilizer and avoid overfeeding to prevent issues.

Feed your stargazers in spring when the first green shoots appear. Choose a slow-release, liquid, or granular fertilizer with an even NPK ratio (10-10-10; nitrogen to phosphorous to potassium). This will encourage robust stems, leaves, and buds. 

Apply fertilizer to your lily beds or containers following the manufacturer’s directions, and water in the product. An additional application can be made in early summer, just before blooms open, but it’s hard to say whether this extra boost will make an impact. Take care not to overfertilize your stargazers, which may encourage leggy plants and possibly burn foliage or buds. 

Maintenance 

Once established, stargazer lilies will do their thing without needing much extra attention. However, there are a few maintenance tasks you should work into your gardening routine to encourage healthy, happy plants.  

Mulch

Top view, close-up of blooming Stargazer lilies against mulched soil in the garden. Its upward-facing flowers boast a rich combination of deep pink and white petals, adorned with dark crimson freckles. Long stamens with orange anthers protrude from the center of the flowers. The petals are recurved and have slightly wavy edges.
Provide full sun for stargazer leaves and flowers, mulching the roots with organic material.

A stargazer lily’s leaves and flowers enjoy full sun, but its roots prefer cool and shaded soil. A layer of organic mulch will help address this conflict of interest and insulate your plant’s feet.

Hardwood chips, hay, pine straw, and leaf mulch are all good material choices for mulching your stargazers. Spread at two to three inches thick, and pull it back a bit from green shoots in spring. 

Deadheading

Close-up of a gardener deadheading faded lily flowers in the garden using red and black pruning shears. The woman is wearing a long blue dress with a floral print. The lily plant produces upright, strong stems with elongated, lance-shaped leaves arranged in whorls along the stems.
Extend stargazer bloom by deadheading spent flowers regularly, using clean pruners.

Stargazer lilies will bloom over about two weeks, but not all flowers will open simultaneously. You might see a few blooms one day, a few the next, and so on. Since each plant produces up to 10 flowers, there will be days when some flowers fade while others just wake up.

To keep your stargazers looking their best, deadhead spent blooms regularly throughout their blooming period. This will encourage roots to direct energy toward flower production rather than seed dispersal and lead to fuller, more colorful blooms. It will also keep beds tidier and reduce your plants’ vulnerability to disease. 

When deadheading stargazers, use a clean, sharp bypass pruner or scissors to snip off spent flowers. Choose a location along the stem just above a set of leaves, removing no more than ⅓ of the plant’s overall height. Remove blooms from the garden to prevent insects and diseases from moving in. 

Cutbacks

Autumn pruning of lilies in the garden. Close-up of large garden secateurs with black-green handles trimming sturdy lilium stems in the garden. The leaves are dry, orange, lance-shaped, elongated.
Leave stargazer lily leaves after deadheading for continued photosynthesis and trim them to two inches post-frost.

After you’ve deadheaded your stargazers, the leaves and stems should be left in place for the remainder of the season. During this period, your plants will continue to photosynthesize and direct energy toward roots and future blooms. 

When leaves turn yellow or brown after your region’s first frost, your stargazers are about to enter dormancy and are ready for cutbacks. Using a clean, sharp bypass pruner, cut plants down to about two inches above soil level and remove waste from your lily beds. 

Propagation

Stargazer lilies can live for up to ten years in the ground and multiply rapidly below and above the surface. They are prolific and easy to propagate. Here are the two easiest ways to turn a single stargazer plant into a whole bunch:

Division

Close-up of a dividing oriental lily bulb on a wooden table. The gardener's hand holds part of the lily bulb. Nearby on the table are a garden spatula and a divided part of the bulb for propagating the plant. The lily bulb is wrapped in a brown husk and has several small green shoots on top and thin, short roots below.
Divide established stargazers in fall or early spring.

Established stargazers will begin to show signs of crowding after a few years. Below ground, the mother bulb always forms bulblets that send up new plants, and things can get a little compacted. If your lilies appear crowded and are not flowering as beautifully as they once did, or if there’s a dead zone in the center of a plant mass, it’s time to divide them.

Here are the steps:

  1. Begin in the fall or early spring.
  2. Using a pitchfork or garden shovel, carefully excavate the entire plant.
  3. Lay it sideways on a tarp.
  4. Using a flat spade or sharp knife, slice the root mass in half.
  5. Repeat this division process as many times as you need to, making sure each new piece has some root hairs (on the bottom) and some stem tissue (at the top).
  6. Plant and maintain new sections as you would an established lily (see Planting above).

Bulbils

Close-up of Lilium bulbils among green foliage. Lilium bulbils, also known as bulb offsets or bulbils, are small, bulb-like structures produced by lily as a means of reproduction. These diminutive bulbs form in the leaf axils or along the stems of the parent plant. Lilium bulbils are round in shape and dark purple, almost black in color.
Collect and plant stargazer lily bulbils, resembling blueberries, for clone reproduction.

Stargazer lilies will also produce bulbils toward the end of the growing season. They are purple-black to brown colored and typically the size of a blueberry. You’ll find them sitting just above leaf axils (where leaves meet the stems), and they can be harvested and planted like a mini bulb. 

Unlike the seeds produced by stargazer lilies at the end of the season, bulbils will grow into a clone of the mother plant. You’ll have to be patient, however. It can take two to five years for a lily grown from a bulbil to produce flowers.

Here’s how to plant them:

  1. Look for bulbils along your lily stems in late summer to early fall.
  2. Pluck them off with your fingers.
  3. Following the same rules as bulb planting, insert bulbils into the soil at a depth that’s two to three times their height.
  4. Cover loosely with soil and water evenly.
  5. Consider using a garden marker to identify their location or planting them in a container, as new shoots will be small and insignificant for a few years.

Varieties

The cultivar name, Lilium ‘Stargazer,’ only applies to the traditional, predominantly pink lily referenced in this guide. There are, however, two additional Oriental hybrids that share the ‘Stargazer’ cultivar name. 

White Stargazer

Lilium Oriental ‘White Stargazer’

Close-up of Lilium Oriental 'White Stargazer' blooming among green foliage in a garden. The Lilium Oriental 'White Stargazer' presents an enchanting display with its large, upward-facing blooms. These flowers, predominantly white in color, showcase lime-green throats and rust-tipped stamens.
The ‘White Stargazer’ hybrid features upward-facing white blooms with lime-green throats.

Like the original stargazer hybrid, this cultivar has large, up-facing blooms with reflexive petals. Flowers are mostly white but have lime-green throats and rust-tipped stamen.

‘White Stargazer’ was bred for more heat tolerance than ‘Pink’ and is hardy up to zone 10. They are also a little taller (averaging 3 to 4 feet) and flower a little later in the summer. 

Golden Stargazer

Lilium Oriental ‘Golden Stargazer’

Close-up of Lilium Oriental 'Golden Stargazer' blooming in a sunny garden. Its large, buttery yellow blooms, approximately 6 inches wide, are adorned with small red freckles. The flowers have an up-facing habit and prominent stamens crowned with orange anthers.
‘Golden Stargazers’ feature yellow blooms with red freckles.

This cultivar was produced by crossing a Trumpet category lily with one from the Oriental group. Its blooms are rich, buttery yellow with small red freckles and large at about 6 inches wide.

Their up-facing habit and sweet light scent are similar to ‘Pink,’ but they sport a little more tolerance for partial sun locations. ‘Golden Stargazers’ reach heights of up to 4 feet and are hardy in zones 3 to 9.

Common Problems

When properly planted and cared for, stargazer lilies are not bothered by many diseases and pests. Most of the issues they face are caused by excessive moisture, inadequate light, and improper spacing. Here’s a look at the issues your stargazers might face and some suggestions for addressing them. 

Disease

Close-up of a Lilium Oriental Stargazer plant affected by Botrytis in the garden. The plant has a vertical stem of a yellowish color. The leaves of the Stargazer lily are strappy, radiating in a whorled pattern from the central branches. They are withered, rotting, brown in color.
Detect and treat botrytis in stargazers by removing affected foliage.

If they don’t receive their requisite six hours of sun daily or are planted too close together, your stargazers may be susceptible to fungal conditions like powdery mildew and gray mold. Look for a fuzzy coating of white, gray, or black spores on leaves or flowers to indicate the presence of this foe. 

Botrytis is another fungal disease that afflicts stargazers. Look for brown or reddish water spots sprawling over the leaf surfaces to indicate its presence. Like powdery mildew and gray mold, botrytis exists primarily in the tissue above ground and is not usually fatal. For these fungal conditions, prune off affected foliage and throw plant debris in the garbage rather than the compost bin. 

The biggest fungal threat to stargazers is root rot. Yellow, droopy leaves and wilting or black stems indicate something undesirable is happening below the soil surface, and the situation should be investigated.

Dig up your affected lily and examine its roots to confirm your suspicions. If its bulb is squishy and its roots are slimy, it is likely suffering from root rot and will not recover. Bag the plant (and ideally some surrounding soil) and toss it in the trash. 

Insects

Close-up of a Lily Leaf Beetle feeding on the leaves of a Lilium Oriental. The Lily Leaf Beetle (Lilioceris lilii) is a distinctive pest with a vivid appearance, has striking red coloration with black legs and antennae. The damage is evident in irregular chew holes or notches on the lily's foliage.
Lily leaf beetles, red with black legs, devour leaves, causing irregular chew marks.

Stargazers are vulnerable to several insect pests, its main foe being the aphid. Look for a black, tar-like substance on leaves to indicate the presence of aphids. This residue is the excrement they leave behind as they pierce and suck on a lily’s leaves. Aphids are about ⅛ inch long with clear or white bodies and a brown splotch on their bellies. They usually congregate on the underside of leaves.

Lily leaf beetles are another stargazer enemy, aggressively feasting on leaves, flowers, and stems. They are red and about ¼ inch long with black legs and antennae. Signs that they are present include irregular chew holes or notches on leaves. 

Both aphids and lily leaf beetles can be manually removed by handpicking or a strong spray of the hose. They can also be discouraged with insecticidal soaps or the introduction of predatory insects such as wasps and lady beetles. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are stargazer lilies toxic to cats?

Yes, all plant parts (including pollen and vase water) will cause symptoms ranging from mild gastrointestinal distress to death if consumed by a cat.

Will stargazer lilies bloom twice in one season?

No, they will only flower once each season for a period of about two weeks.

Can a stargazer lily change color?

While color intensity may vary due to sun exposure and other environmental factors, lilies will not change color from one year to the next. If you find your stargazer is suddenly a different color, you’re likely looking at a new plant, possibly the product of a hybrid seed that was self-sowed.

Final Thoughts

A darling in the garden with its large, cheerful face directed toward the sky, the stargazer lily is one of the most sought-after lilies in the genus. Choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil and space your stargazers generously, and they’ll give you up to 10 years of freckled pink joy. Divide them every three years to keep the party going and share some with a friend or neighbor. 

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